S. Fowler Wright's Short Stories
The Better Choice
"Mutants," Professor Forsyte said with quiet finality, "are normal, for mutability is a fundamental natural law. They have been explicable since we have known that atoms may be transformed or split with inevitable consequence - and they are certainly nothing new.
"One of the earliest books that has survived from classical times narrates how a man's wife was changed into a cat; and there is independent testimony, almost equally ancient, from Northern Europe, which tells of the mutation of men and wolves."
Olive asked: "Could you do it? I should rather like being a cat."
"I should have supposed that the attraction would not be great."
"Well, I feel differently. Shouldn't you like me purring against your legs?"
The professor looked at his wife doubtfully. She had always been too volatile, too flippant to be helpful in serious work. But perhaps now . . . if she really would!
As he hesitated, he saw the expression of petulant annoyance which was too frequent on an attractive face.
"Of course," she said, "you couldn't. It's only talk."
"If you would co-operate - "
"I'd jump at the chance." - And I'd be able to jump better than I do now, she thought whimsically; but she had learned that such levities were not appreciatively received.
"It would be a particularly interesting experiment," the professor continued. "But we should need to have a clear understanding about getting you back to normal. We should have to co-operate in that also."
"You think it might come unstuck there?"
"There should be no risk whatever. I only meant that the cat - that I couldn't do it without your consent."
"Well, you'd certainly get that!"
Olive had been away for nearly a week, callously leaving the professor in ignorance of what might have occurred. She had had the time of her life. She had teased dogs.
She had stolen food without fear of criminal law. She had had adventures upon the tiles.
Now she leaped on to the windowsill, so that (for he was not asleep, as she had assumed he would be) he saw her, black against moonlit sky.
Would she come in? Would she creep in beside him? Would she be content to wait till the daylight should come, or would she desire his help to release her now, so that the dawn would reveal a disorder of gold-brown hair, and a piquant face asleep on a red-nailed hand?
So he hoped, so he expected that it would be; but it might be best that she should think him asleep while he watched what she would do.
She did not come in. Only her tail moved. He saw it arch and wave, as if it were agitated by the thoughts that crept down her spine.
It was true that she had meant to return to him, and her human life. It had been an evident course which her mind had accepted without debate. But it was now that a doubt arose.
There was so little to return to: so very much to resign. He saw her turn and leap back into the night.
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End of this file.